Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last time around, L.A.'s Vinny Dotolo couldn't say enough about Alison Barakat's fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty in Oakland. What's thrilled your palate recently, Alison?
Who: Alison Barakat, Chef/Owner of Bakesale Betty in Oakland
What: Boudin blanc with duck-fat fried potatoes
Where: Camino, Oakland
"Russell Moore's Boudin blanc is one of the best meals I've ever had. Boudin blanc is from the Burgundy region of France, and it's considered the richest, most treasured of all French sausages. In fact, the French refer to it as the king of sausages. Russell's version is a most perfect example. He makes his with pork and chicken finely ground with cream, butter and onions and it's perfectly spiced. It has this amazingly smooth, rich texture and the flavors are out of this world. I loved it served with duck-fat fried potatoes and applesauce. It is the ultimate comfort food: warm and satisfying."
Russell Moore, fresh off of making a Monday batch of the stuff, responds:
"It's a funny little thing... I worked at Chez Panisse for a million years while I was pretty young. I made sausages all the time. It kind of became the thing that I made whenever it was on the menu it always fall on me to do the sausage. For a special event, Alice asked me to make a boudin blanc. I called my friend David Tannis in Santa Fe (he's back at Chez Panisse now), because I knew he'd have some advice. If anyone knows David, he speaks in really vague, whimsical terms, and he said things like: 'It should be soft and yielding with a crispy skin, but it definitely shouldn't bounce back from the casing. It should taste like the things you put in it.'
"After that conversation I basically lied and told Alice I knew how to make it, and I spent the next twelve hours figuring it out on my own. It's a really tough sausage to get right, to get the flavors right, and there are so many components. It was a big hit at the party, everyone talked about it, and it ended up on the regular menu in the café. But the problem is it took me fucking forever to make every single time, and it still does.
"I stopped making boudin blanc for a long time, but when I opened Camino I thought I'd do it every once in a while. It's a much smaller place, fewer people on the line, so I can't do it very often. We happen to be serving it right now, just for the month of February on Mondays only, with a few different kinds of sauerkraut. I think it's better now than it was. I use Soul Food Farm chickens, which are so good. I start making it in the morning, butchering everything myself, saving the fat, grinding each meat separately, and eventually something splatters on me and I end up smelling like sausage for days. But we've got some funny customers who keep coming back for it."
Earlier: 2009: The Year Oakland Leapt Onto the Foodie Radar [Grub Street]
Bites: Oakland, Calif. - Camino [NYT]